When the first wave of Jewish exiles returned to Judea, they were enthusiastic about rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians nearly fifty years earlier. But when their efforts to start rebuilding the Temple were opposed and resisted by neighboring nations and internally by the current inhabitants of the land, the repatriated Jews became discouraged and the Temple continued to lie in ruins for almost twenty more years.
This meditation is Part 2 in a three-part series of meditations on Romans 6-8.
As Christians, we live life in parallel universes. Our old self has been buried with Christ in His death and He has given us a new self: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which i now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).
In Christ the new self is now the real self, but the old self is still there. It’s like it hasn’t been completely subdued in spite of one’s surrender to Christ. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul provides a firsthand description of this inner struggle with one’s old self, this duality dilemma.
“When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved. ‘Where have you put him?’ He asked. ‘Lord,’ they told Him, ‘come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35, HCSB).
This meditation is Part 4 of a four-part series from the story of the raising of Lazarus from death. When Jesus arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died, He encountered family and friends mourning over the death of Lazarus.
Jesus exhibited a wide range of emotions as He shared in the sorrow of Lazarus’ death with family and friends.
Sometimes people think that God is somehow out to get them.
In Chapter 18 the prophet Ezekiel provides a highly detailed explanation to refute the notion that God punishes the innocent for the sins of others. Ezekiel clarifies that each individual bears personal responsibility for his or her own sin (see also 33:7-20).
“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?'” (John 3:1-4, NLT).
It has been said that perception is reality. In fact, this view could be the mantra of the post-modern era.
The well-known account of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is a story of how people often accept their own flawed perceptions and misconceptions as reality.
“As they approached, Jesus said, ‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.’ ‘How do you know about me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, ‘I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.’ Then Nathanael exclaimed, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!’ Jesus asked him, ‘Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.’ Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.’ ” (John 1:47-51, NLT).
Almost all the words spoken by Jesus and recorded in the Gospels quote Old Testament Scriptures or make an allusion to an Old Testament story or event. That is the case here with the calling of Nathanael as one of Jesus’ disciples.
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:9, NLT).
When God saved you, He didn’t do it because you deserved it but because your salvation was always His plan. God’s purpose for His creation has always been determined and redemption is the way He mediates His plan.